The fact that Clockwork Aquario is available to play on the Nintendo Switch is wonderful to me. It was originally meant to release in arcades in the early 90s, but was instead cast aside by developer Westone in favour of more modernised releases. In many ways it makes sense, especially when you compare the quirky 2D visuals and platforming gameplay with the other titles that were blowing up in arcades at the time, but it’s still a shame that it didn’t see a release.

Well, close to thirty years on from its cancellation, publisher ININ Games and part of the original development team have revived the title and brought it to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. It makes for a fun little experience too, even if the short length and dated gameplay mechanics will certainly remind gamers that this was a title that should have released in the 90s.

Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:

Clockwork Aquario allow players to play as one of three different characters as they navigate through five vibrant platforming levels, with each filled with enemies to beat up and balloons to pop in order to rack up a higher score. Whilst jumping on enemies is a good way to hurt them, players can also give them a quick whack, which puts them in a dazed state that allows the player to pick them up and launch them at other enemies. It’s actually the best way to take out some of the enemies you face off against, especially the bigger ones who are a bit trickier to jump on.

It features all of the hallmarks you’d expect of the genre, with moving platforms to leap between, hazards to avoid, and power-ups to give you a quick boost, though nothing is ever particularly difficult in the game. Most enemies are easy to handle as long as you take your time, whilst no platforming challenges felt especially complicated either. I managed to beat it using only two continues on my first attempt, so I can’t imagine it would have been a coin-guzzler if it did make it to arcades.

That’s not to say that it’s not fun though, with each level bringing with it plenty of action to keep the player busy. They all end with a boss fight that tests the player’s skills in different ways too, and whilst none were particularly challenging to beat, they added a fun sprinkling of variety to all of the platforming action. It’s just charming throughout and will certainly resonate with fans of the genre.

“I managed to beat it using only two continues on my first attempt, so I can’t imagine it would have been a coin-guzzler if it did make it to arcades.”

The only issue is that it’s a very, very short game. I managed to beat it in just under twenty minutes on my first attempt, whilst there’s not much extra to work towards once you’ve completed it outside of trying to get a higher score. There are multiple difficulty options and players can fine-tune the game settings if they play in Arcade mode, but you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re done with the game after just an hour.

At least there’s local co-op play which allows you to play through the adventure with a friend, whilst there’s also a multiplayer-exclusive mini-game to play that’s based around popping each other’s balloons in competitive action. I actually found the mini-game to be a lot of fun to play, though its simplicity means you probably shouldn’t expect to find yourself hooked in for too long.

Clockwork Aquario’s package is fleshed out with the addition of an art gallery that contains plenty of concept art for the game, which is always neat to check out in releases like this. Speaking of art, I adored the visuals of the game, with the pixel art a vibrant and feel-good representation of the games that hit in the early 90s. It looks really nice and added a welcome nostalgic twist to the overall experience.

Clockwork Aquario Review

Clockwork Aquario is a fun and nostalgic 2D platforming experience that’s only let down by a short length and easy difficulty. It’s hard not to find the release of the game wonderful though, especially since this was a cancelled game that might not have seen the light of day if not for a reworked effort by the original team. I think it deserves attention for that reason alone, though the fact that it’s a delightful little game does work in its favour too.

Developer: Westone
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4